2021 Minnesota Priorities: Recover from COVID, keep life affordable, support families

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(ST. PAUL, MN) – Senate Republicans released their 2021 Minnesota Priorities today. “Over the last four years, Senate Republicans have fully-funded state government without raising taxes— in fact, we cut taxes for middle-income earners for the first time in 20 years,” Gazelka said. “We have improved healthcare access and affordability for every Minnesotan across the state while putting a stop to the waste and fraud that maligns our health and human services. We have increased funding for students and protected our elderly from abuse. But, between COVID-19 and a $1.3 billion budget deficit, we have our work cut out for us this year.”

“So, in 2021, Senate Republicans will work to safely reopen schools and businesses to recover our economy. We will keep life affordable by balancing the budget- without raising taxes. That means no new gas tax, no new income tax, no new sales tax. And we are going to ask government to tighten its belt as well. We will support families with choices for their kids’ education and homeownership in their communities. Working together, we will advance Minnesota out of the covid shutdowns and restore a full and abundant life for everyone,” Gazelka concluded.

RECOVERING FROM COVID-19 

Re-opening Minnesota  

Senator Andrew Mathews discusses how to safely re-open businesses 

Businesses across the state have made incredible sacrifices to open safely. Senate File 1 says that businesses with safety plans already in place may open up with no restrictions from outside forces. Governor Walz should not have the power to open and close small businesses at his will, it should be only be exercised temporarily when a business is a proven source of spread. Our bill is a tool to peel back the restrictions unilaterally placed on Minnesotans and hopefully bring our state back to the booming economy it was before the pandemic struck.

Reopening schools 

Senator Carla Nelson explains her bill to get kids safely back in schools 

Gov. Walz’s executive orders closing schools have been among his most questioned of the outbreak. There is overwhelming evidence that the danger of keeping schools closed far outpaces the risk of bringing students back into classrooms. Senate Republicans will protect a student’s right to a great education at all times by removing any governor’s authority to close schools or alter school schedules via executive order. The decision on how and when to reopen should not be made from the governor’s office. It should come from local school boards and community leaders. They are the ones who know what is best for their students.

Protecting seniors from Covid-19 

Senator Housley share hers thought on vaccinating seniors 

Minnesota seniors have been left without answers for nearly ten months. They have been left cooped up in their homes and care facilities waiting for direction and guidance. Now that a vaccine is available, the focus needs to be on getting the vaccine to our seniors, if they want it, as quickly as possible.  

Supporting small businesses 

Senator Eric Pratt talks about business support through COVID-19 

Senate Republicans and the Jobs Committee have three main goals: 1) Passing a balanced budget that helps Minnesota work towards economic recovery, 2) Focusing on reducing unemployment, and 3) Addressing the economic crisis and health care crisis together. Passing a balanced budget will be the key to economic recovery, and getting people back to work. Part of this will include re-examining our unemployment insurance system, as well as the taxes and fees our businesses have been paying. Amidst it all, we need to make sure our citizens are safe, while trusting our businesses to safely stay open. People have invested their life savings into their businesses, and the grants we’ve provided just aren’t enough. We’re going to focus on how we can flatten the curve on economic issues, AND the health care crises. We cannot and should not wait until the pandemic is behind us to fix the problems—we need to tackle these issues now. 

Reforming emergency powers 

Senator Dave Osmek demonstrates how to reform emergency powers 

Our government is built on the concept of the balance of power between our three branches of government, but as we’ve seen with the use of the peacetime emergency by Governor Walz and his executive branch, the Governor has exerted nearly total control over Minnesota and our policies regarding COVID-19 without the oversight of the legislature. While Senate Republicans respect the idea of maintaining emergency powers to react to immediate threats, there becomes a point in time where it affords the executive too much power to circumnavigate our democratic process and destroy any sense of transparency and accountability Minnesota had in place. This legislation helps us define that window, making it clear that after 30 days, it’s time to start cooperating with the legislature on commonsense solutions that we all agree will make Minnesota a better and safer place. 

KEEPING LIFE AFFORDABLE 

Balancing the budget without raising taxes 

Majority Leader Paul Gazelka talks about balancing the budget 

The number one job this session is to balance the two-year budget. Senate Republicans will balance the budget without raising taxes, just like last time. That means no new gas tax, no new income tax, no new sales tax. The $1.3 billion shortfall can be resolved with budget cuts and by using our budget reserve fund.   

Tightening the government’s belt 

Senator Julie Rosen asks government to reign in spending 

The number one task of the session is closing the state’s budget deficit without raising taxes. Senate Republicans will require each state agency to find 5% savings within their budgets to help accomplish this goal. With families across Minnesota facing incredible financial hardship or, in many cases, on the verge of losing everything due to Covid restrictions, it is perfectly reasonable to ask state government to tighten its belt. Minnesotans cannot afford a tax hike, and it’s unconscionable to ask them to pay more after the sacrifices they have already made over the past year.  

Protecting Minnesotans from expensive California car rules 

Senator Jason Rarick explains the impact of California car regulations on Minnesotans 

Governor Walz and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are pushing forward with their attempt to implement California emissions standards on Minnesotans without any legislative input. This doesn’t just mean more expensive cars for all Minnesotans, but threatens people’s livelihoods. These standards will impact construction trucks, tractors, and even electric coops diesel generators, hurting our economy while having a destructive impact across Minnesota communities with little to no environmental gain.  

Restoring accountability in our government 

Senator Michelle Benson discusses accountability for MDH and HHS 

State government agencies must never forget they serve the people of Minnesota. A key Senate Republican priority for this legislative session is holding the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services accountable. This year the legislature must set a budget and we cannot afford any more waste, fraud, and abuse from these agencies. Over the past few years, we have achieved some meaningful reform despite pushback from bureaucrats but a lot more must be done. These agencies must be reformed to better serve the interests of Minnesotans.  

SUPPORTING MINNESOTA FAMILIES 

Helping disadvantaged students get a great education 

Senator Roger Chamberlain shares his bill for opportunity scholarships 

Minnesota has long prided itself on having one of the best education systems in the country. But that system is not working for many Minnesotans — especially low-income families and families of color. As of 2019 barely more than 50% of students met math standards and 58% met reading standards. That’s a failure. We have a moral duty to do better. Senate Republicans will create opportunity scholarships for disadvantaged students to help them access a better education. It has overwhelming support in minority communities. Parents want choice and self-determination, and every student deserves an equal opportunity to succeed. 

Housing and homeownership 

Senator Rich Draheim shares the priorities for the Housing Committee 

Community starts at home. Housing dictates family budgets, education opportunities, job markets, and much more. Over the next biennium, Senate Republicans will look to open up Minnesota’s housing market in a multitude of ways, including introducing reforms that reduce construction costs and decrease regulations currently limiting market-rate housing in an effort to make homes affordable for more Minnesotans. 

Delivering new veterans’ homes for Minnesota’s at-risk veterans 

Senator Andrew Lang shares priorities for Veterans 

The Veterans and Military Affairs Finance Committee have several large priorities this year: tackling veteran homelessness, suicides, and pressuring the federal government to complete our three new veterans homes in Minnesota. These new veteran homes are great for Minnesota, and we’ve done our part to make sure they’re prepared to open and house as many veterans as possible. Senate Republicans will help as much as we can, but we need to put pressure on the federal government to uphold their end of the bargain. 

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